What Should People Development Focus on to Improve Your Firm’s Competitive Advantage?
Times are a-changing. How wealthy we would all be if we had a £1 for every time we had heard that recently. The point is they always are but the pandemic has accelerated the process and made us much more aware of change.
This means not only different ways of working for all of us, even though (hopefully!) they are unlikely to stay exactly as they are at this point in time, the future will be different to our recent past.
Lawyers, particularly the less experienced ones now have higher expectations of their employers. They want carer development support and to have the opportunity to develop the non-technical skills they need. They no longer want to rely, as potentially previous generations did, on either innately having the skills or working on them at a crunch point, such as a promotion opportunity.
The good news is for firms who are willing to focus on these areas, they benefit too. More of their team have the non-technical skills they will eventually need anyway later in their career. This means they equipped to start earlier on building great client relationships that lead to increased loyalty, retention and business. The skills to communicate themselves as credible and trustworthy at networking events, online and with referrals to win new engagements.
It was never sensible to rely on a Partner or two to develop new relationships and bring in the business, now the opportunity is there to be seized by all.
Which non-technical skills are a good starting point?
I believe there are 9 key skills that should be developed in people to give your organisation the competitive edge. Here are my top ones that I consider to be fundamental and why:
1. Personal Impact
How we communicate ourselves and engage with others is pivotal to the relationships we build, especially in a services business such as a law firm when it is the people that make the difference. The technical knowledge and expertise is a given. Your team need to consider how they are ‘showing up’ in every professional scenario, including online. Lack of a LinkedIn profile or a poor one doesn’t represent your firm well and now more than ever, online is your ‘shop window’. You can read more on how having a team with a positive personal impact can make you more competitive in my article here.
2. Building Relationships with Clients & Prospects
These are the lifeblood of your firm, your people need to be skilled at dealing with them so that current clients remain loyal and refer more business and new prospects are easily won, as they are handled well. This is not a one off task; your people need to be able to build these relationships over time with clients of different types.
Related to the above but more specifically, when you have people who are good at attending networking events and keeping up contacts with people they meet, you will have a steady flow of enquiries and new engagements. It has to become a positive habit with individuals having their own strategy that links into your firm’s and a plan for where they network and when, to get results over time.
4. Managing a Team
Whilst this may seem a long way off for many of your lawyers, it is a good skill to start working on early. Unless someone has had a really positive role model, they often need support to be good at managing others and getting the best from them. Even if individuals are informally supporting more junior staff, this is a good start. Being a good lawyer does not necessarily equal being a good people manager.
5. Meeting Effectiveness & Presentations
These are pivotal interactions with both existing clients, prospects and other business contacts. Your people need to be able to lead and contribute well to discussions in meetings and present information to inform and influence. It is part of personal credibility and your credibility as a firm.
What does your firm need to focus on? How could focusing on even one or two of these skills amongst a broader group in your firm positively impact your firm’s performance and give you a competitive advantage? To read more on the above five skills and to learn about the others, download my free Guide.
About the author
Joanna Gaudoin is a Calico Associate specialising in Financial & Professional Services and is passionate about helping organisations and highly qualified people fulfil their potential. She has worked with many clients including HSBC, AAT, Forsters LLP, Allied Irish Bank on developing the often untaught skills of personal impact and effective engagement in every professional scenario to build and grow client and prospect relationships as well as improve internal relationships to work more effectively.
Author: Joanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image